There has been much celebration and a few tears attached to the 2020-2021 Interim Budget. More joy would flow, and drier eyes prevail, if there were more transparency in the presentation. With less than a week’s notice, and below 30 hours for review, our highest administrative body considered a $10 million budget without the customary peephole for the general AME public. Even pre-pandemic, we increasingly ponder some of our most important decisions behind closed doors (and I do not mean the Council of Bishops). In the Board session, we heard a few questions. We received incomplete answers. It makes one wonder if we have done due diligence.
With a bit less pressure, and a little more time, some critical questions could have improved the outcome. How many of these queries can the rank and file of the General Board answer, or even the Commission on Statistics and Finance? The 25% reduction passed! It’s done. The masses will enjoy their loaf of bread and a parade, while a few kneel before an untouched vault. Consider:
- How was the reduction amount of 25% reached? What makes 25% correct? Do we have data from around the church that projects a 25% shortfall?
- Were schools, departmental and component heads consulted on the impact of a 25% reduction? Where is a written report on effect? What criteria was applied to the diverse budget to make the reductions equitable and strategic, not mostly the same?
- Has anyone done an analysis of our demographic and the capacity to give? Where is “our” research? Are we making just an emotional guess?
- How is the current crisis greater than the Great Recession for our membership? Where is the data?
- Was there an analysis of the impact of a 25% reduction on the development of Districts 14-20?
- How is the cash reserve GOAL calculated? How much is enough?
- Why does the Interim Budget not include a single dollar of contribution from the Reserve Funds? How much is in the Reserve/Endowment Reserve Fund (carryover from previous years)? How much more emergency do we need to access at least “some” of the reserve funds?
- The PPP loan the CFO received. How much? Why was Statistics & Finance seemingly not a part of the application process (at least informed)? Exactly when will the determination be made on the use of the funds? Will Statistics & Finance participate in the decision?
- How much carry over of “Contingency” from 2016-2020? Why were none of these funds used to fill the gap?
- What are the cash assets managed by AME, Inc.? What are the net earnings, to date, of the AME Future Fund?
Did the Council of Bishops, General Board or The Commission on Statistics Finance exercise due diligence “before” the vote? Did they do their job? Did they do it well?
4 thoughts on “Have We Done Due Diligence? – Have We Done Our Job?”
The answers to questions 4-10 – NO! I started to comment on the items, but after getting started I realized all the questions could be answered with a simple “NO!”
Foregoing the fiscal concerns, the most obvious is the church’s “Great Recession” without intervention headed towards a “Great Depression. “
The irony of this budget process is that the full details have yet to be distributed to the connectional Church. There are areas for scrutiny beyond the process because it doesn’t solve for what comes next as we go deeper into recession and congregations don’t return to their edifices. How will we adjust because our historical trend has been to change the “budget” at the general board following GenCon ratification? What does this decision mean to the legislative process when the 25 percent reduction is artificial and doesn’t address the levy of items within an Episcopal district that doesn’t even submit an operational budget nor third party audited financial report? There has to be transparency to support the move that has been made.
Thank you for your comment. Please note:
On page 268 of the Discipline it states, “A printed, itemized, audited report of income and expenditures will be presented to each annual conference that contributes to the fund.”
In the 13th District, and at least one other known to me, the audits are presented at the annual conferences and a district meeting. Perhaps others will be encouraged to share. All districts (especially Districts 1-13) submit audits to the General Board and the Episcopal Committee.
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